The Malik Report
Red Wings overnight report: The race to Thanksgiving, Datsyukian hate and grooming Homer’s successor
by George Malik on 08/07/11 at 08:10 AM ET
As of 6 AM this morning [edit: make it 7:15 as this took an hour and change], I haven’t been able to find much information as to what transpired during Joey Kocur and the Red Wings Alumni Association’s charity softball game in Highland, MI, save a few pictures from the Wings’ Twitter account and an instant classic from Jamie Favreau, who posted a picture of Darren McCarty rocking a kilt which apparently included a Detroit Tigers logo...
But the Vernon Morning Star’s Lisa VanderVerde ensures that this Sunday is anything but “slow” in the news category by offering an interview with Wings GM Ken Holland from his off-season home in Vernon, BC. Holland recently held a charity event of his own in a charity golf tournament, but he wasn’t too busy to engage in a cursory discourse regarding Detroit’s lateral free agency moves and his belief that the Wings must get off to a strong start to ensure that they’re playoff-bound by American Thanksgiving:
“Middle of July until the end of August is slow in our industry. Most teams spend their money in the early few days of July, and if you don’t spend your money, then the players are picked over. We like our team. We added a couple of defencemen, we added a back-up goalie. I think a lot of our team is really coming into their prime. We’ve got an older component to our team, but that’s by design.”
Ty Conklin is the goalie Ken mentioned, while Ian White and Mike Commodore are the d-men Detroit signed.
Holland used to list four or five teams who had a serious chance at winning the Cup. In today’s game, he feels all 16 playoff teams have a shot.
“I’ve always said the playoffs really begin October the fourth because in order to win the Stanley Cup, you have to get into the playoffs. If you look at the races every year, it’s down to a few points. You need to get out of the gate. I always use U.S. Thanksgiving, in late November, when everybody has played 25 games (as a gauge). You can play pretty well and lose four in a row, it’s so fine. It’s a great league and it’s wide open. Eight first-round match-ups and four went to Game 7 and two went to overtime, and the two teams that went to the Stanley Cup finals, were in overtime in Round 1. They were one shot away from being eliminated. So it’s great for the fans.”
A numbers whiz and talent-hound, Holland has worked almost 30 years for the Wings, starting as a scout. He turns 56 in November and he’s not thinking early retirement.
“I became manager in ‘97 and I’ve been a manager for 14 years. Proud of things we’ve accomplished, but trying to figure out a way to win one more Cup and it’s hard to do. I work with great people, great owners and it’s a great city. It’s more challenging all the time, with the cap, and parity. It’s not only the cap; there’s no expansion teams. Eight years ago, teams were four or five years into their existence. Everybody’s an established franchise. Everybody has 27-year-old players that are in their prime so there’s no expansion teams.”
While I’m mentioning charitable events, a key figure in the Wings’ attempt to overcome Brian Rafalski’s retirement, Niklas Kronwall, will hold his annual charity hockey game to benefit his youth hockey team, Jarfalla HC, on August 12th, and Jarfalla Hockey’s website lists the following players as participants:
Niklas Kronwall Detroit Red Wings
Jacob Josefsson New Jersey Devils
Tom Wandell Dallas Stars
Gustav Nyqvist University of Maine, ny signad för Detroit Red Wings
Daniel Rudslätt AIK
Dick Tärnström AIK
Niklas Grossman Dallas Stars
Patrik Hörnqvist Nashville Predators
Jonathan Ericsson Detroit Red Wings
Marcus Krûger Chicago Black Hawks
Rikard Franzèn AIK
Johnny Oduya Winnipeg Jets
Andreas Engqvist Montreal Canadians
Mattias Norström Dallas Stars
Niklas Bergfors Nashville Predators
Christian Sandberg AIK
This event was brought to my attention by Marie Hallman, who briefly spoke to Kronwall about Friday’s charity game…
“There will be a good lineup this year, a young but very talented one,” says Niklas Kronwall. It should be a fun game, I think. And just so you know, it’s free admission. Just walk into and look, all for free.
Those who want autographs can get it at 17.00, the players warm up 17:50, start of the game 18:30.
[You can go to the] Järfälla ice rink and check out both current and emerging stars. And as I said, free admission
And Hallman notes that Kronwall, Ericsson and Henrik Zetterberg will take part in another charity hockey game on Thursday in Norrkoping, Sweden, when Peter Forsberg’s “Icebreakers” team will play against Jonathan Ericsson’s alma mater, Swedish third division team, Vita Hasten, and Hallman says the game will air on Swedish TV:
Speaking of friendly games involving NHL players the game between Vita Hasten and the Icebreakers on August 11 [will air on] TV10 and Viasat Hockey [in Sweden]. The Sedin brothers, [Henrik] Zetterberg, [Nicklas] Backstrom, Markus Naslund is included in Peter Forsberg’s team. Niklas Kronwall, Jonte and Jimmie Ericsson and Patrik Hörnqvist will play for Vita Hasten.
Sticking with international news for a moment, Tomas Tatar accurately predicted the winners of Slovakia’s player-voted “Zlaty Puk” (Golden Puck) awards. The Slovak news agency, SITA, reports that Zdeno Chara was named Slovakia’s best player for 2011, and Tatar’s friend, Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Richard Panik, was named the best player under 20 years of age—but Wings prospect Tomas Jurco finished second in the voting for said award.
And Pavel Datsyuk popped up in Puck Daddy‘s headlines again, but not because of Dmitry Chesnokov’s fantastic interview with Datsyuk, but instead, because Second City Hockey’s Sam Fels, one of the Blackhawks’ “blogosphere’s” most outspoken Wings-haters told Greg Wyshynski that the player he despises the most is Datsyuk.
I can’t deny the fact that, as a partisan Wings fan, I tend to call that team from Chicago the, “Thughawks” or “Chickenhawks,” but I have to admit that as much as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp torment the Wings, when they’re not playing Detroit I do respect the way they play.
Regarding one of the players Datsyuk mentioned in his interview, I really do believe that Tomas Holmstrom will probably out-last Nicklas Lidstrom by sheer force of will, probably playing until his knees can no longer withstand constantly being hacked and whacked by opposing teams’ players, but in light of the Free Press’s Helene St. James’ suggestion that Danny Cleary may supplant Holmstrom in the Wings’ top six, Pro Hockey Talk’s Joe Yerdon made what I can only call a bold suggestion:
Lidstrom is in his 40s and going strong, but a guy like Tomas Holmstrom is 38 years-old and worse for the wear given the sort of offensive game he plays. Parking yourself in front of the opposing goalie and taking your lumps from defensemen and goalies alike takes a toll on your body and for Holmstrom, this upcoming season could be his last in the NHL.
Thankfully for the Wings, they’ve got a guy in Dan Cleary who had a breakout of sorts last year and could be poised to take over Holmstrom’s role this year.
If Cleary can pick up where he left off at last year when he scored 26 goals and added 20 assists for a career high 46 points, he’ll force the issue for coach Mike Babcock. Cleary was able to do some of the dirty work in front of the net while Holmstrom dealt with injury problems last season and did well on the power play with five goals on the man advantage last year.
That’s a far cry from what Holmstrom did scoring 10 of his 18 goals on the power play, but if Cleary is going to be the guy to take his spot there he’ll have to improve his numbers. With Cleary being six years younger and a less abused than Holmstrom, he’s an ideal candidate to fill those very large shoes in front of the net. What Cleary did last year with his ability at even strength has shown he’s capable of being a top six forward with the Wings, it just remains to be seen if it’s his time to take that job and make it his own from here on out.
Politely speaking, um…No way in hell. Holmstrom’s a specialist who spends an incredible amount of time honing his craft as a net-front shot-tipper and rebound-retriever, and he not only practices tipping shots with Lidstrom for 10-20 minutes after every practice, but he also studies tape of opposing goaltenders and has essentially learned to mimic goaltenders’ positioning to the point that I’d argue he’s a better goaltender, fundamentally speaking, than half of the league’s starters.
Cleary, Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi can certainly go to the front of the net a little more regularly, but Cleary’s role as a forechecking forward who grinds the puck out down low and along the side boards, and when you add in his ability to snipe passes into the net via one-timers, those skills are far too valuable to sacrifice for the sake of planting him in front of the crease.
Moreover, if Holmstrom’s job was so easy to master, his scores of imitators wouldn’t come and go with spinning Rolodex’s regularity, and I don’t like tossing this word around, but Cleary’s both too multi-dimensional in his abilities and too, erm…old…to truly learn to succeed Holmstrom like a youngster might be able to do.
If anything, I’m very surprised that the Wings haven’t taken one of their prospects aside, suggested that they invest in some knee braces and then go about shadowing Holmstrom like the silhouette of his hockey pants torments opposing teams’ goaltenders, soaking up all Holmstrom knows about the art and science of tipping pucks by essentially playing as a second but very ineffective goaltender, while withstanding abuse from opposing teams’ defensemen without more than hints of retribution, because Holmstrom replaced Dino Ciccarelli in said role and the Wings will face a gaping hole in their roster if they don’t find someone to fill Holmstrom’s very dedicated spot in front of the net, especially on the power play, and to fill his hockey pants, if you will.
And finally, via RedWingsFeed, DetroitRedWings.com editor Bill Roose announced that he’s going to swap out his role as the website’s editor for that of a “beat writer.” It sounds like the Wings’ website’s going to attempt to churn out feature stories on a more regular basis, and with Rick Bouwness’s addition to the PR staff and what I’m sure are a few new interns in tow, I’m guessing that the editing role will be reassigned within the organization. So congrats to Roose, and keep an eye on the Wings’ website as the prospect tournament and main training camp approach (we’re only a month out!).
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.